Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Great Moments in Fabric Literature: The Burning Dress

By the time I'm introduced, the audience is an absolute wreck. People have been weeping and collapsing and even calling for change. The sight of me in my white silk bridal gown practically causes a riot. No more me, no more star-crossed lovers living happily ever after, no more wedding. I can see even Ceasar's professionalism showing some cracks as he quiets them so I can speak, but my three minutes are ticking quickly away.
Finally there's a lull and he gets out, "So Katniss, obvioulsy this is a very emotional night for everyone. Is there anything you'd like to say?"
My voice trembles as I speak. "Only that I'm so sorry that you won't get to be at my wedding...but I'm glad you at least got to see me in my dress. Isn't it just...the most beautiful thing?" I don't have to look at Cinna for a signal. I know this is the right time. I begin to twirl slowly, raising the sleeves of my heavy gown above my head.
When I hear the screams of the crowd, I think it's because I look stunning. Then I notice that something is rising up all around me. Smoke. From Fire. Not the flickery stuff I wore last year in the chariot, but something more real that devours my dress. I begin to panic as the smoke thickens. Charred bits of black silk swirl in the air, and pearls clatter on the stage. Somehow I'm afraid to stop because my flesh doesn't seem to be burning and I know Cinna must be behind whatever is happening. So I keep spinning and spinning. For a split second I'm gasping, completely engulfed in strange flames. Then all at once, the fire is gone. I slowly come to a stop, wondering if I'm naked and why Cinna arranged to burn away my wedding dress.
But I'm not naked. I'm in a dress of the exact design of my wedding dress, only it's the color of coal and made of tiny feathers. Wonderingly, I lift my long flowing sleeves into the air, and that's when I see myself on the television screen. Clothed in black except for the white patches on my sleeves. Or should I say wings.
Because Cinna has turned me into a mockingjay.

Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire, book 2 of the Hunger Games Trilogy

Burning wedding dresses - so symbolic! Of loss, of threat (think of Jane Eyre, fire and ripped veils - a threat to the dress is a threat to the bride.)
From white to black, burning can signify death but also danger, a signal fire, a message. It is also purification, or a warning. Or in Katniss' case, all of the above.

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